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“What A Gig, And At Your Expense”: Aaron Schock Still Eligible To Collect Taxpayer-Funded Pension

Rep. Aaron Schock, who announced his resignation today under suspicion of misusing public money, will be eligible for more of it in retirement.

Schock, a Republican from Illinois, could eventually collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded retirement benefits, depending on how long he lives.

Starting at age 62, he will be eligible for just under $18,500 annually, according to estimates by the National Taxpayers Union, a conservative nonprofit organization.

Douglas Kellogg, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, added that members of Congress are also eligible for a 401(k)-style plan, but it’s unknown whether Schock has chosen to participate in it.

According to a June report from the Congressional Research Service, members of Congress who have completed at least five years of service are eligible for taxpayer-funded pensions beginning at age 62.

The amount of a former congressional member’s pension varies, but the payout is based on the number of years of service and an average of the member’s three highest years of salary.

Being a former member of Congress carries other perks, too, including access to the House floor.

Schock, known as perhaps the nation’s fittest congressman and who once posed shirtless for Men’s Health, will also still be allowed to use the House gym — he’ll just have to pay a fee.

In recent weeks, Schock has been hit with repeated questions about his spending.

He repaid the government $40,000, money he spent redecorating his office along a theme inspired by “Downton Abbey,” a PBS historical drama, and fielded inquiries about his charter plane use, luxury overseas travel, personal photographer and concert tickets.

Today, Politico reported Schock has been reimbursed for more in mileage than his car had been driven.

“The constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself,” Schock said in a statement today.

An email to Schock’s spokesman wasn’t immediately returned.

Schock was first elected in 2008. His resignation will abruptly end ongoing congressional ethics investigations into his activities, although federal prosecutors could conceivably pursue the matter. Schock has not been charged with any crime.

The Federal Election Commission could also probe related accusations that Schock misused campaign money.

 

By: Paige Lavender, The Blog, the Huffington Post, March 17, 2015

March 18, 2015 Posted by | Aaron Schock, Congress, Congressional Pensions | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sorry Gov Walker, Wisconsin Pension System Is Nation’s Most Solvent

Wisconsin’s budget may be in a hole, but the state’s pension system is among the healthiest in the nation.

In fact, the Badger State was one of just two states to fully fund its public employee pension in 2009, according to a report released Tuesday by the Pew Center on the States. New York was the other.

Although nationally there was at least a $1.26 trillion gap in 2009 between what states have promised in public employee retirement benefits and what they have set aside, Wisconsin stands out as a leader in managing its liabilities for both pension and health benefits over the long term, the Pew report concluded. The shortfall is 26 percent greater than it was in 2008.

Pew researchers attribute the gap to unwise decisions by retirement benefits fund officials and the Great Recession that whacked pension fund investments. In all, 31 states were below the recommended 80 percent funding level for their pension plans in 2009, compared with 22 states that fell short of that threshold the previous year.

“Over the last decade, it was all too common for state leaders to skip or shortchange their annual retirement contributions and increase retiree benefits without checking the price tag or figuring out how to pay the larger, long-term bill,” said Susan Urahn, managing director for the Pew Center on the States. “Now, policymakers in many states are taking a long overdue look at how they have managed, or failed to manage, the considerable costs for public employees’ retirement benefits. Even in states like New York and Wisconsin, where pension systems are well-funded, governors have sought policy changes aimed at reducing their pension liabilities.”

The report was released at a time when Wisconsin sits at the epicenter of state budget battles across the country as governors are focusing on public employee benefits to cut costs and balance budgets. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ignited a firestorm with his “budget repair” proposal that strips public employees of many of their collective bargaining rights and requires them to contribute more of their income toward their retirement benefits. Several states followed with similar proposals, fueling a debate over the role of pension systems in the financial crisis in the states.

At a Capitol Hill forum Tuesday sponsored by the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank, the consensus among panelists was pensions are not to blame for states’ fiscal woes. One panelist, Eli Lehrer, vice president of the Heartland Institute, said given the health of Wisconsin’s pension fund, Walker would be wise to focus his budget balancing effort elsewhere.

“The pension system in Wisconsin is fully funded,” Lehrer said. “As a budget focus, I think he’s better off expending his political capital somewhere else.”

Andrew Biggs, a pension expert at the American Enterprise Institute, said just because Wisconsin’s pension fund is solvent doesn’t mean it should be off-limits.

“It could be well-funded and still be a drain on the budget,” Biggs said.

Pew researcher Stephen Fehr said retirement benefit costs for all states continue to rise, and while states like New York and Wisconsin should be commended for maintaining their funding obligations amid hard times, they face financial strains.

“They don’t have a pension crisis, but on the other hand they do have some pressures as all states do when it comes to figuring out how do we pay our bills,” Fehr said.

New York and Wisconsin have fulfilled their pension fund obligations regardless of the economic times, Fehr said.

By: Larry Bivins, Greenbaypressgazette.com, April 27, 2011

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Politics, Public Employees, States, Wisconsin | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Actually Happens If The U.S. Hits The Federal Debt Ceiling?

Are you just now recovering from the migraine induced by months of partisan feuding over the 2011 federal budget? Looking forward to a lengthy reprieve before Congress tackles next year’s budget? Sorry, but you’re in for a rude awakening. (And you might want to reach for some aspirin.) Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner warned Congress last week that the United States — currently liable for more than $14 trillion of debt — will collide with the federal debt ceiling around May 16. Once the government hits the current limit of $14.3 trillion it will be legally prohibited from incurring any additional debt; problematic since the U.S. only takes in around 60 cents for each dollar it spends.

Congress has raised the debt ceiling 74 times since 1962. Ten of those increases occurred in the past decade. It’s a routine vote. However, the political calculus has shifted in the newly anointed “age of austerity.” House Speaker John Boehner acknowledged that a failure to raise the ceiling could have calamitous implications. However, congressional Republicans appear unlikely to authorize an increase in the debt limit without significant Democratic concessions, setting up yet another high-noon scenario on Capitol Hill. 

This poses the question: What would happen if the U.S. hit the debt ceiling?

In the immediate aftermath of such an event, the Treasury Department can impose “extraordinary actions” to help pay the bills. Those measures include, “suspending investments in a savings plan for federal workers and pulling Treasury securities out of a trust fund for two federal retirement plans. In such cases, the Treasury must make the funds whole again once the ceiling is raised.” However, such stopgap measures would prove ineffective before long, and the government would have to either authorize an increase in the debt limit or cut $738 billion in federal spending in the span of six months, with severe consequences for the economy. Notwithstanding such a massive curtailing of government spending, the U.S. would default on some of its debt obligations. And the implications are frightening

For one, the government would grind to a halt — cutting off military salaries and retirement benefits, along with Social Security and Medicare payments. Worse still, default would also plunge the U.S. back into recession. Interest rates and borrowing costs would surge, while the dollar would plummet. In a worst case scenario, the markets would go into a death spiral as investors distanced themselves from the U.S.

At the very least, defaulting would call into question the true value of U.S. Treasury bonds — heretofore the gold standard of the bond market. Additionally, such an event would damage the country’s credit rating, and significantly hamper its ability to generate revenue necessary to keep government running. A default on government debt obligations could conspire to undermine the United States’ preeminent position in the global economy. Needless to say, all of this would swiftly end the recovery, as Federal Reserve head Ben Bernanke pointed out.

As for the political repercussions, Nate Silver at the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog argues that the failure to raise the debt ceiling would equate to nothing less than political ruin for virtually every elected federal official.

This as close as you can get in American politics to mutually assured destruction. No matter how Machiavellian your outlook, it’s very hard to make the case that any politician with a significant amount of power would become more powerful in the event of a debt default.That in mind, it seems unlikely that the ceiling won’t be raised. It’s just a matter of when, and how, we get there.

By: Peter Finocchiaro, Salon, April 11, 2011

April 12, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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